Christianity 201

October 25, 2014

Getting It From The Source

The Voice: Luke 1:1-3 For those who love God, several other people have already written accounts of what God has been bringing to completion among us, using the reports of the original eyewitnesses, those who were there from the start to witness the fulfillment of prophecy. Like those other servants who have recorded the messages, I present to you my carefully researched, orderly account of these new teachings. I want you to know that you can fully rely on the things you have been taught about Jesus, God’s Anointed One.

The introduction to Luke’s gospel is widely taught and usually the emphasis is on the book’s authority and reliability, based on the author’s declaration that he followed what we would call today the “best practices” of journalism.

Search the ScripturesLuke describes his work as

  • a careful study (CEV)
  • traced the course of all things accurately (ASV)
  • carefully investigated everything (various)

Verse 3 is somewhat paradoxical however, because Luke while he starts the narrative at day one — only Luke and Matthew include Jesus’ birth — it could also be an admission that he’s been tracking the Jesus story from the outset, which is how some translations render it. Why do more research? The facts were widely known and it would have been easy to sit down at the keyboard and start typing (so to speak) but he takes an academic approach to his work, he does the work of a scholarly historian.

So we find the text used in an apologetic sense; used to defend the accuracy of this particular gospel and sometimes of the scriptures in general.

But in so doing, is there an application we miss?

In these times when there are so many voices on the internet, so many Christian radio and television programs, and so many books being written; do we ever take the time to fully weigh and consider and evaluate what we read, see and hear?

In my work, I often encounter the phrase, “[Name of television preacher] says that this means…” or “My pastor said on Sunday that…”

Don’t take me wrong, we want pastors who are set apart to teach us; people who spend time in God’s Word and use reference materials such as commentaries and lexicons and interlinear Bibles to gain the full background context and the full meaning of scripture. There are tools available to us online, but most of us as laypeople lack the four to six years that the average pastor has spent gaining a foundation that qualifies him (or her) to preach.  Likewise the people whose books are issued by major Christian publishers, or television preachers whose ministry has been proven and has the endorsement of others in the field.

But sometimes when I hear, “My pastor said…” there is a sense in which the person is not at all interested in studying the scriptures. They want to be spoon-fed the bullet-points in a weekly 30-minute download, and nothing more; and don’t even think about suggesting that there are other pastors who have a different take on that issue, that verse, or that way of doing things.

It’s a rather myopic way of living.

Luke had every reason to simply write down his own thoughts on Jesus life, teaching and ministry. People would have read his blog post out of respect for his relative proximity to the action. Or, he could have just interviewed Peter to have a second source, or just interviewed Mary, but evidence shows he spoke with both and many others, too. He took it seriously. The IVP New Testament Commentary details his process:

First, he investigated (parekolouthekoti) the story. This appears to refer to the fact he studied his topic. Luke was not himself an eyewitness to the events of Jesus’ life. So only his study could produce such a work. But we should not think of Luke in a library here. He would have traveled through the community gathering information, both from recorded texts and from conversations with others who had seen Jesus.

Second, Luke went back to the beginning (anothen). This is why the story starts with John the Baptist. This Jewish prophet was the starting point of the renewal of God’s activity, as Luke 1—2 will make clear.

Third, his study was thorough: he says he studied everything (pasin). Though what we have in Luke is surely a select collection of material, the Gospel writer wants it known that he did his homework. Luke was very concerned to get the story right, to be accurate in his portrayal of Jesus.

Fourth, Luke did his work carefully (akribos). As the Gospel itself reveals, Luke’s work is thought out and precise in its development of the story.

Luke calls his account an orderly one (kathexes)…

…All the care Luke gives to the task, as noted in his preface, is designed to reassure Theophilus, who has been taught (katechethes) on such matters previously.

Do we continue to carefully study the scriptures or are we content to coast on letting others do the work for us?

I wrote this today to challenge us to develop the same skills your favorite TV preacher or author or pastor uses; to stand on a stronger authority than simply, “My pastor says…;” to move from Christianity 101 to Christianity 201 and then 301 and 401.


Go much, much deeper: The graphic image used in today’s post is from part four of an online instruction to Messianic Christians on how to interpret the scriptures. To read the article, click this link.

 

 

 

October 12, 2013

Walking in the New Way

Last night I was listening to John Fischer’s All Day Song, and it reminded me to check out his blog The Catch. Here’s a recent item that appeared there; you’re encouraged to read this at source and check out the many other articles. Click here to read Walking In The New Way.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)

There it is: the new way and the old way right up next to each other. The fact that this verse is in the Bible and was a characteristic Paul identified in one of the first churches to ever follow Christ shows how the old way of relating to God holds on tenaciously to our psyches turning us all into Pharisees in much less time than we can learn the ways of the Spirit.

Like a tweet I posted yesterday — “Religion changes your behavior. Jesus changes your heart” — our new relationship with God is all about the heart. The old way is based in God’s expectations for us written on stone tablets. It’s a distant relationship with God. It’s not even a relationship with God as much as it is a relationship with God’s laws or God’s expectations, which for all of us are so far beyond any of us as to render us all disobedient. So the old way either grovels in our failure, or it severely reduces the expectations to something we can do (which enable us to pridefully judge all those other people who don’t), while hiding behind a religious facade that has nothing to do with the real attitudes and changes in the heart that God wants to form in us.

In fact, that pretty much describes the church for thousands of years — fake, self-righteous leaders and groveling parishioners.

Our new relationship with God changes all that because through it, God writes His ways and means on our hearts. This is not a relationship with God’s laws; it’s a relationship with God. It is close and intimate. Because of the blood of Jesus that covers all our sin, God can come near to us and change us on the inside.

“‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

No more groveling. No more faking. No more spiritual caste system. God’s forgiveness opens the door to an entirely new relationship where we all know God — priest and parishioner — on the same basis, not on the basis of what we do, but on the basis of what He has done.

If you harbor guilt in your heart, you are not walking in the new way. If you think there are those who are better than you, or not as good as you, you are not walking in the new way. Our new relationship with God is based on what He has done. Period.

Whatever we do comes out of that relationship, not to earn it, but to live and walk in it.

June 22, 2013

The Bible on Love: Ten Important Verses

lovedToday I’m excited to introduce you to yet another quality Bible study and devotional blog.  Jack Wellman blogs at Christian Crier. I was going to just copy the ten verses Jack highlights, but this really needs to be read in full. I encourage you to read this at source, where it appeared under the title 10 Most Important Bible Verses on Love.

If you had to choose one, which is the most important love verse in the Bible?  Why would you choose one over the other?  What seems to be the most important verses in the Bible on love?

For God So Loved the World

John 3:16  “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Some manuscripts take the first part of this verse, “God so loved the world” and render it as “for this is how God loved the world.”  I like that very much.  When we get closer to the literal Greek wording of this verse, it gets even better.  We could read it as:  “For this is how God loved the world, that He gave His one and unique Son, that whoever believes in Him will never perish but have everlasting life.”  Either way you read it, this Bible verse may be the most important verse of all for it displays such a sacrificial love – a life-giving love – which is unequaled and unmatched in all the world.  Love is a verb and it’s what you do…and this act at Calvary was the most supreme act of love that has ever been displayed.  That Christ died for us while we were still His enemies and most unworthy sinners at that, shows that love is an act of the will and not a feeling in the heart.

Greater Love Has No Man

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

We could paraphrase this verse to read, “No one has a greater love than that which he or she would willingly die for their friend.” This reminds me of the many veterans who are serving and who have ever served their countries for their nation’s freedom.  Many did give their lives to defend what we often take for granted.  I have heard true stories of veterans who threw themselves on hand grenades to save their fellow soldiers lives but didn‘t live to tell about it.  Those whom they saved retell this most selfless act.  That kind of love reflects the agape love of God.   The agape love is the greatest love that there is and it is the type of love that gives a person over to sacrificing their own life to save another.  This love was most abundantly displayed on the cross by Jesus Christ.  He gave His life as a ransom for the many (Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6).

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

It is natural to love your family and friends, but to love those who hate you and persecute you?  Wow.  God loved us before we even existed (Eph 1) and died for us while we were still sinners and His enemies.  By the way, anytime Jesus says “You have heard it said” He is referring to the Old Testament laws and so when Jesus follows that by saying “but I say to you,” He is referring to the New and better Testament.  This is a difficult one indeed and it can’t be done in human strength but only by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In this reference in Matthew, Jesus says that God is gracious even to those who are sinners, sending sunshine and rain to them…which are essential to life.  The analogy might be that God even gives the sinner’s good things in life because He is a benevolent God.  This is why good things sometimes happen to bad people.

Love Is Unselfish

First Corinthians 12:4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

First Corinthians chapter 13 may be the greatest chapter on love in all the Bible and love is displayed here by many tangible evidences.  It is patient; with people and circumstances.  It is kind; to people and animals.  It doesn’t brag; about self but brags about others and glorifies God and gives Him the credit.  It isn’t arrogant; lording over people your position, power, or knowledge.  It isn’t rude; but polite and displays manners and proper etiquette.  It doesn’t insist on its own way; but give precedence and priorities to others, even if it has to compromise.  It isn’t irritable; it is not easily provoked to anger by people or circumstances.  It isn’t resentful; it rejoices when others succeed, even at their own expense.  It doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing; it never delights in other people’s sins…instead, it rejoices in the truth of the Bible, it bears all thing (all means all), believes all things (gives people the benefit of the doubt), hopes all things (hopes for the best for all concerned) and endures all (all, like being used, abused, persecuted and so on).   These things are love.

Love Your Neighbor as Your Self

Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The religious leaders were trying to trip Jesus up by asking Him which was the greatest commandment and Jesus nailed it spot on when He said that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, might, mind, and soul.  But we are also to love our neighbors.  Who are our neighbors?  In the Parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus showed that all men and women are our neighbors and so we should love them as well, even if they were a “Samaritan” to us.  Part of this command is not obeyed by many good Christians…the part where we are to love ourselves as our neighbors.  When we hate ourselves and are extremely hard on ourselves, we are breaking this commandment where we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Love One Another

John 13:34-35  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

In what is called the High Priestly Prayer in John 13 and 14, Jesus gave the disciples, and by extension, all who would be His disciples, a new commandment.  This new commandment was to love one another “just as” or in the same manner that Christ loves us.  That is a big-time love my friend.  By this love we have for one another “all people will know that you are my disciples” and so this love for one another is evangelistic and it is diagnostic…diagnostic in the sense that it proves that we are either His disciple or we are not.  In the church today there are both wheat and tares and Christ will separate them some day.  Those who are His inherit eternal life…those that are tares, are plucked up and burned.

If You Love Me, Obey My Commandments

John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

At first glance, this doesn’t appear to be worthy of being on anyone’s top 10 list of Bible verses on love, but wait…let me explain why I chose this one.  We display our love for others when they ask us to do something and we do it willingly because we love them.  If we truly love Jesus, why wouldn’t we want to please Him by obeying what He has told us to do?  Obedience is preferred over sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22).  Samuel asks a rhetorical question in this verse:  “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God would rather have a person obey Him than to offer many or costly sacrifices because obedience shows respect and love for the one to whom it is given.

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins

First Peter 4:8  “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

My children and grandchildren sin and will sin again but no amount of sins will ever stop me from loving them.  My friends have sometimes sinned against me too but to display my love for them, I am willing to forgive them, whether they ask my forgiveness or not.  Since we are all sinners, I can not cast the first stone and many times I have caught them in a sin but never mention it to anyone else.  Love does not gossip and when see others sin and don’t tell other people, we are covering for them.  The exception is that if it hurts the church…like gossip.  If they acknowledge their sin, repent of it, and confess it, then it is covered by God and so why would I gossip to others to say, “Hey, did you hear about so and so and what he/she did?”  Jesus death on the cross, and the love displayed in that action, covers all of our sins (2 Cor 5:21).   Proverbs 17:9 says much the same thing as the author writes, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” and that “love covers over all wrongs” (Prov 10:12b).

Love of a Friend

Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

I have a close, special friend of mine who is a man and I am not ashamed to tell him that I love him.  I love him more than a brother.  This man is honest enough to tell me the truth, even when he knows it hurts and he is open enough to hear a friends rebuke.   King David and Jonathan had a love like this as described in 1 Samuel 18:1 “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” What a precious thing. Their souls were knit together…they were made of the same fabric, so to speak.  Jonathan loved David “as his own soul” which reminds me of Jesus’ second commandment of the two greatest…to love your neighbor as yourself.  This was repeated later in 1 Samuel 20:17 when “Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

Marital Love

Genesis 29:20 “Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

Husband and wives love is reflective of Christ’s love for the church and the church of her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:25-28 is one of the best descriptions of how a husband should love his wife, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

Men, there is no “plan B.”  This is an imperative command.   Men are to love their wives as themselves and as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her.  The greatest thing a husband can do for his wife is to love her.  Women, the greatest need for a man is to have respect for him because respect is interpreted as love just as women interprets love as respect for her.  Men and women have different needs and so for men it is to be respected and for women it is to be loved.  The husband and wife relationship is like that of Christ and the church in that it is a sacrificial love.  When a man loves his wife, he would willingly give his life for her while the wife would more easily submit for a man willing to do this.

Conclusion

To me, these are the 10 most important verses in the Bible on love. You may have different ones.  If you do, please leave a comment and tell us which is your favorite Bible verse or verses on love.  What Bible verse is the most important to you and why?  Add your favorite Bible verse on love in the comments section below so that we might add it to our Bible verse love bank and by doing so, we can accumulate a vast treasure trove of God’s infinite love for those who Christ died for and even for those who are outside of the faith.  There is no greater love, there is no love more sacrificial, and there is no love that dies in your place, than that of Jesus Christ who died for us while we were still His enemies.  Paul wrote of this exact thing in Romans 5:6-8, 

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If you have not yet repented, confessed your sins, and trusted in Christ to save you from God’s wrath, then you don’t know the full extent of Gods’ love yet.  John 3:36 says that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” because “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). I pray that is not you.

November 5, 2012

Peace… Be Still

If I’m really honest — and I’m going to be today —  I would have to admit that I approached last Monday night’s storm with a great deal of apprehension. Part of it was due to the media buildup and part of it was due to general anxieties being brought on by a variety of circumstances.

As it turned out, the media’s anticipation of the storm was not hype, and people in New York City who failed to heed the warnings to evacuate ended up needing rescue.  If September 11th, 2001 represented the day that war came to America, then October 29th, 2012 was the day catastrophe came to New York City.

Stephen and Brooksyne Weber have had storm-themed devotions at Daily Encouragement all last week, though it’s interesting that the Friday before (26th) they chose this verse:

 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

The day after (30th) they chose this passage,

“And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:37,38).

The passage continues,

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

We sleep at night with a fan on in the room (for the white noise background), but even with that the winds were howling. I’m sure that we’ve had worse winds in several Canadian winters, but this time around I entertained the possibility of the top half of the house blowing away.

So I laid there and in my heart prayed “Peace, be still.” My lips didn’t move and my vocal cords didn’t engage, but inside, the prayer was a scream. I wasn’t expecting the storm to stop so much as I was praying for a stillness of the winds of anxiety and the rains of adversity.

I was praying for a stillness, a calm to inhabit my heart and mind.

And while that was going on, I thought of a song that’s based on the same passage in Mark, Master the Tempest is Raging. There are a few versions of it online, but nothing that matches the passion and intensity that I remember when, in my teen years, I heard it performed by the 120-voice choir at my home church in Toronto.

These are the lyrics, though I had no memory of the 2nd or 3rd verses until I looked them up today:

Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?

The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled—
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master—
Oh, hasten, and take control.

Master, the terror is over,
The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast;
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.

I think it is significant that in 1874, the writer, Mary A. Baker, chose to take the direction in the second verse that most likely applies to us today, and most certainly applies to me. The winds of fear and the rains of troubles and trials really never stop, but “no water can swallow the ship.”

As I did Monday night, and several times in the days since, reach out your hand toward your circumstances and whisper, ‘Peace … be still.’

~Paul Wilkinson


A more contemporary song that came to me this week was posted here previously, check out Psalm 91 by SonicFlood.

Hurricane Sandy devastated Cuba, Haiti, The Dominican Republic; but all we tend to hear about is New York City. Here’s an examination of the inequities of media reporting.

October 10, 2012

Being a Person of Integrity

Here are five powerful messages in one from Jeff Jones Blog, originally posted as The Road of Integrity. Click through to read more great posts like this one.

“People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” Proverbs 10:9, NLT  

We all know that the fastest and most efficient way to get between two points is a straight line. The original Hebrew word translated for “integrity” is defined as “straightness”. People who walk with integrity typically walk a straight line. Their lives are defined as ordered and in control. But folks who live on the edge, always try to cut corners, and tend to be a little less than truthful are defined by following crooked paths. The result is always the same, they slip and fall.

I want to share with you five things that will help you to walk down the road of integrity.

#1  Develop Your Character

We live in a world that is extremely superficial. If you’ve got the looks: you’re in. People are enamored by appearance and are more interested on the outside than what’s on the inside. But here’s the deal– you can alter your appearance a ton of different ways, but you can never hide what’s on the inside. Because whatever is on the inside, will come out when you’re squeezed. When you squeeze an orange, you never get apple juice.

So we all need to develop our character. Character is something that we can develop and work on everyday. It’s not glamorous or sexy, but it does define who we are. Ask God to help you develop a character that honors Him and allows you to walk in integrity.

#2  Be Honest

I remember the advice my mother gave me over 50 years ago, “Honesty is the best policy.” Well it’s just as true today as it was back in the 60’s. Here’s how it works:

A.  Be Honest with Yourself– it always starts with us doing a little self analysis.

B.  Be Honest with God– He knows everything about us already, so just be honest with Him.

C.  Be Honest with Others– learn to shoot straight with the people in your life.#3  Do The Right ThingEvery day we’re faced with a ton of decisions. We come to a fork in the road where we need to draw on our integrity to make a decision on what direction to take. The choices we make determine our present as well as our future. Often times we’re forced to choose between doing the right thing which could mean more work or a delay in moving forward. Sometimes doing what’s right isn’t the easiest thing, but it’s always the right thing, for us and those that will follow our footsteps.

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.” Proverbs 20:7, NKJV

#4  Pay Attention To the Small Stuff

The Bible reminds us that it’s always the little foxes that spoil the vine. That’s a great reminder that we need to pay attention to the little things of life. Every day when an aircraft carrier gets ready to launch its aircraft the entire flight deck crew walks the deck, shoulder to shoulder, making sure that there is nothing that could get sucked up into the jet engine. Our Navy men and women know the importance of paying attention to the small stuff.

I remember finding a stack of quarters at the spray car wash one day. I could have used those quarters to wash my car, but they weren’t my quarters. They’d been left there by someone, and of course it wasn’t a big deal, but the bottom line is they weren’t mine. I left them there for the next guy.

#5  Keep Your Word

This is an easy one. Just say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t say one thing and mean another. It’s the old adage, “Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.”

Don’t promise to meet someone for coffee if you really don’t plan to ever do it. Listen to what the Bible says about this.

“…let your yes be yes and your no, no, lest you fall into judgment.” James 5:12, NKJV

Make a point to only say things that you believe and that you will back up with your actions. Every time you keep your word you are building your integrity.

 “Father, help me to walk in my integrity. I seek to bring You honor and You glory by my words and by my actions. I desire to walk the straight and narrow with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
This is the second visit to Jeff Jones blog here. Click to see a previous article.  And here’s a more recent piece from his blog on strength and courage.

August 1, 2012

Seeing the Father Working

NIV-John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

Yesterday morning I was reading this verse in several different translations and I started thinking of the things that Jesus did do in his earthly ministry here, and what that means in the context of “what he sees his Father doing.” I’ve always thought of Jesus acting on his own while here on earth in terms of the times he seems to act swiftly and quickly and decisively. But it would mean that:

  • When Jesus says to the paralytic, “Rise, take up your bed and walk;” he sees his Father touching and healing the man and helping him to his feet;
  • When Jesus says to the storm, “Peace! Be still!” he sees God the Father already working to calm the wind, stop the rain, and push the clouds away;
  • When Jesus blesses the loaves and the fish, he sees God in heaven making a creative miracle happen so that the the fraction and division of the food causes it to multiply.

The cooperative nature of Christ’s earthly ministry with what God the Father is doing is easy to miss; especially when the gospel narratives don’t mention that aspect of each story.

Gary W. Burge in the NIV Application Commentary for the Gospel of John writes this on page 177 concerning this verse:

The central motif is the relation of a father and son as it would be viewed in this culture through the trade or skill the son was learning.  We can think of Jesus growing up with Joseph in the carpentry shop, obediently learning skills and later imitating them… His activity is never independent or self-initiated but always dependent, deriving its purpose from the father’s will.

In this model we have to remember there is no reciprocal relationship. The father initiates, sends, commands, commissions, grants; the Son responds, obeys, performs his father’s will, receives authority. Moreover, the Son does not simply draw inspiration from the Father, but imitates Him tirelessly.

Matthew Henry writes:

It was the copy of that great original; it was Christ’s faithfulness, as it was Moses’s, that he did all according to the pattern shown him in the mount. This is expressed in the present tense, what he sees the Father do, for the same reason that, when he was here upon earth, it was said, He is in heaven (John 3:13), and is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18); as he was even then by his divine nature present in heaven, so the things done in heaven were present to his knowledge. What the Father did in his counsels, the Son had ever in his view, and still he had his eye upon it, as David in spirit spoke of him, I have set the Lord always before me

J. B. Phillips translates this verse and the one which follows:

Jesus said to them, “I assure you that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. What the Son does is always modelled on what the Father does, for the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he does himself, Yes, and he will show him even greater things than these to fill you with wonder.

What is the application of this passage?

Certainly when we come to God, it’s possible for us to visualize two things:

  • What God is already doing
  • What God is about to do

Not every prayer request is answered, and certainly many are not answered right away, but it can stretch our faith to consider that Jesus did not initiate so much as he harmonized with God the Father already at work. Through the imagination we can see the Father working.

~PW

July 24, 2012

The Peripatetic Ministry of Jesus

NLT Luke 9:3 “Take nothing for your journey,” he instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveler’s bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes.

Okay, I’ve been waiting all year to use the word peripatetic  in a sentence. It means itinerant. But it looks impressive.

Today’s thoughts are from Rev. Kevin Rogers who blogs at Orphan Age: Loners Learning About Community, and does the pastor thing at New Song Church in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. This appeared there just a few days ago under the title, JOINING GOD’S NOMADIC FAMILY

As we look at the life and ministry of Jesus, we find a man who lived at home and entered his father Joseph’s carpentry business. Then at age thirty, he left the woodworking and began a nomadic quest to meet people and promote the Kingdom of God.

Even as a young man of twelve years, Jesus wandered from the security of mom and dad to visit the Temple where he made conversation with the priests.

From an early age He was driven to think about the Heavenly Father’s business.

There is no evidence that Jesus ever married, but evidently some of the disciples did so. As Jesus understood His mission, there would not be a wife in his thirties or any little boys and girls growing up in his house.

Instead, He found other men and called them away from their pre-occupation with work. Away from the fishing trade, the tax collector’s table and political activism—they were called to follow God’s nomad through the wilderness. They were called from pre-occupation to a higher occupation.

Once a woman was impressed by His teaching and spoke like a proud mother to him.

Luke 11: 27-28
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

In the woman’s comment we hear a great affirmation of Jesus’ character. He was a fine young man who would make a mother proud. But, instead of thanking her and moving on, Jesus points to a greater truth. It is true that a parent is blessed when their children turn out well, but more important is the person’s receptivity to God and their obedience.

On one hand I see Jesus showing great respect and obedience toward parents. At the same time he demonstrates a larger social contextualization than was provided by his family and tribe of origin.

Another example demonstrates an allegiance that includes, but supersedes his family of origin.

Mark 3: 31-35
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus points to a context that is greater than the tribalism He was raised in. Ancient Hebrew culture was intimately tied to one’s family of origin. What tribe were you a part of? The ancestors and many of the people in the countryside were nomadic.

In ‘The Nomadic Lifestyle of the Ancient Hebrews’ author Jeff Benner says,

A nomadic camp consisted of about 25 to 50 members. Any less and it would be difficult to protect the family and any more would be difficult to feed. Usually the oldest member of the family was the head, or chief, of the clan. The remainder of the clan would consist of his brothers, sons, nephews and grandsons as well as their wives. Each clan was an independent entity with the chief as judge and ruler. He had the ultimate authority in all manners including where they go, discipline, management of the flocks and herds and the daily tasks of the camp.

When a clan became too large to support it was divided and separated with all of the clans belonging to one tribe. The name of the tribe was generally that of the original family patriarch and each clan carried the name of its original patriarch.*

An entire nation of people traced their ancestry back to the twelve sons of Jacob. Jesus came preaching a Kingdom that encompassed all nations and tribes, most of which were considered ‘the others’ to Israel.

~Rev. Kevin Rogers


*Jeff A. Benner, The Nomadic Lifestyle of the Ancient Hebrews. http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/33_nomadic.html

This is Kevin’s eighth contribution here at C201, making him my second most popular go-to blog for Bible study and devotional material. Check out the rest here. Or go direct to Orphan Age.

January 25, 2011

Only God’s Spirit Can Reveal Truth and Counter Error

I posted this earlier today at Thinking Out Loud, and decided it belongs here as well. Classic Christianity by Bog George remains one of my all-time favorite Christian books. This excerpt is from an early chapter where he talks about separating truth from error.

There’s a big difference between knowing what something says and knowing what it means. Millions of Christians know what the Bible says, but many do not know what it means, because that can only be revealed by the Spirit. Man’s pride rebels against the idea that he cannot understand spiritual truth on his own but this is what the Bible clearly says:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (I Cor 2:14)

The reason why is very simple, there is no human alive who can read another man’s mind and if we cannot know what another human being is thinking how much less can we ever know what God is thinking? I Cor 2:11 reminds us of this:

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

How then can God teach us his thoughts? “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (v. 12) Man does not need the enlightening ministry of the Holy Spirit to understand the law; the law was given specifically for the natural man. We need the Holy Spirit to open our minds to the things having to do with the unfathomable riches of His love and grace, those things that “God has freely given us.” Those truths are described in I Cor. 2:9 this way:

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.

In order to understand the things that God wants to teach us regarding His grace we must have a humble, teachable attitude for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Just as the same sun that melts wax hardens clay, the same message of God’s grace that softens the heart of the humble hardens the proud. The proud cannot receive grace because the proud will not receive grace…

That is why an uneducated but humble person will receive far more genuine and intimate knowledge of God Himself than a highly educated but arrogant theologian…

Bob George, Classic Christianity

Blog at WordPress.com.